I had plenty of time to think during a recent bout of the flu. With the way my mind works, I started wondering if this is how George Lutz felt and even left the house for a bit to see if my symptoms were proximity-based to an ancient Indian and/or Satanic curse (depending on the version of Amityville you see/read). No such luck, just good old-fashioned muggle flu.
With The Conjuring 2 opening with the Warrens investigating the Amityville house and a new Amityville Horror movie coming out later this year, I feel it’s a good time to take a look at the murders and subsequent hauntings that have shocked, horrified, and enticed us for over 40 years. Let’s take a look at the reality of it and do a comparison of the 1979 and 2005 versions.
THE BUILD-UP: (I did a ton of research which I largely scrapped because it became a 10-page report)
On 13 November 1974, Ronald “Ronnie” DeFeo shot and killed his parents and 4 siblings in their sleep. On 21 November 1975, Ronnie DeFeo, known heroine and LSD user diagnosed with antisocial depressive disorder, was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences.
WAIT! Didn’t the house make him kill? What about the ghost of Ketcham in the basement whispering sweet nothings at 3:15 am and the hidden “red room” that’s the source of all evil? Well, apparently, Ronnie did a lot of drugs in the basement so he could have heard things, and the “red room” was really just a closet. Fun fact: the Ketcham family was prominent in Amityville going back to the 18th century (there’s even a Ketcham Ave.), but no connections to witchcraft. As far as ghosts making Ronnie kill, according to various interviews, the whole “devil made me do it” story was unfortunately concocted by Ronnie’s attorneys seeking an insanity defense.
Yeah, I was bummed about that, too.
On 19 December 1975, the Lutz family moved into the DeFeo house. 28 days later, the Lutz family moved out stating supernatural events made the house uninhabitable. Their family priest, Father Ralph Pecoraro, said in a 1979 interview that he was chased from the house by an unseen presence that said “GET OUT!” There was no mention of flies in the Father’s interview.
On 13 September 1977, Jay Anson published The Amityville Horror: A True Story. The book became an instant hit and bestseller… and criticized for claiming to be complete fact. https://www.amazon.com/Amityville-Horror-Jay-Anson/dp/1416507698
Both movies, 1979 and 2005 versions, have the same premise: the Lutz family (newlyweds with three kids) come across a once in a lifetime opportunity with the Amityville house. Of course a family of six was slaughtered there the year before, but houses don’t kill people, right? The family priest gets chased from the house by a swarm of flies and an ominous voice saying “GET OUT!” Almost immediately, George Lutz becomes ill and starts hearing/seeing things. He becomes a hot-tempered insomniac and takes it out on the family. The daughter, Missy, gets a new imaginary friend named Jody (supposedly one of the DeFeo girls). The babysitter gets locked in the closet and loses her marbles. The ghosts get more active and the family is compelled to leave when the poo hits the fan. Okay, so the differences.
The Amityville Horror (1979)
This version runs pretty much parallel with the Anson book, sometimes to a fault like how a porcelain dog moves around the house biting George when he isn’t looking. Not exactly horrifying stuff if you are the pet guardian of a small dog like I am. The biggest drawback is that its content was decades ahead of what special effects could provide. I did like how somebody actually drew eyes on the already creepy eyes-like windows to really sell the idea.
The movie is slow moving and, if you are looking for ghost activity, you will be disappointed until the last 5 minutes or so. It’s nice for nostalgia or for the sake of comparison, but that’s about it. On the other hand, if you are a deeply religious person looking for a watered-down Omen, this might be your movie.
This version focuses on crisis of faith. The priest, Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) plays a significant role as he struggles to find the strength to save the Lutz family and suffers the beat-down of the year from the “demonic entity” at every turn. Seriously, by the end of the film it’s almost funny. Also, faith, apparently, isn’t going to save you or your plumbing from evil. Following the faith theme, George Lutz (James Brolin) is given a lecture by his co-worker about how he changed his religion for Kathy (Margot Kidder), who was a Catholic. The snooty babysitter gets locked in a closet and walks out of the house scared. Kathy finds out that the house is on a cursed Indian burial ground (where they banished the souls of their insane) and the property was owned by the Satan-worshiping Ketcham at one point. George’s personality changes (as does his hair, which is the ultimate barometer of sanity), but he never turns psychotic. The walls bleed and the house shakes as the Lutz family escapes together with George leading the way, cross in hand.
George saves the dog and all ends well.
Interestingly, I was watching Dead Files (episode 6-12: The Whispering) where a woman in Concrete, Washington was plagued by whispers and apparitions. Oh, her health was failing and she was becoming an insomniac, too. The real kicker was when Amy Allen revealed that the area had a sort force field around it, an ancient Indian curse, which did not allow the dead to escape. According to her, this is where they banished their insane tribe members. Was this a common practice amongst Native Americans since we find the same thing on both coasts? #deadfiles
The Amityville Horror (2005)
I highly recommend this movie.
To say Director Andrew Douglas took some creative liberty with Anson’s book would be an understatement. BUT, the result being he amped up the family dynamic, sprinkled in an exaggerated version of the horrific events (without the little dog), and added of all the paranormal visuals you would ever want.
And if you ever question Ryan Reynolds’ range as an actor, watch this movie. He starts out as the witty and charming Ryan that we all have come to know, but becomes an abusive monster chasing his family with a shotgun by the end. Yes, Ryan Reynolds can act and he can scare us. As an added bonus for anyone seeking a little P&A (“pecs and abs” as my wife says), Ryan was in better shape than in Deadpool and wasn’t shy about showing it off.
This version focuses more on how the ghosts in the house are affecting the Lutz family. From the moment the shady real estate agent steps into the house, you see shadows moving and know this house is legit, but the Lutz’s take it anyhow. The priest, Father Calloway (Philip Baker Hall) plays a less significant role as he gets chased off by the “GET OUT” entity and later confesses to avoiding the Lutz family because their house scares him. The Father, like the 2005 Lutz family’s plumbing, isn’t turned into evil’s bitch. The skanky babysitter is locked in a closet by Jody, who scares her into near catatonia (one of my favorite scenes). Kathy Lutz (Melissa George) finds out that the house is on property once owned by the Satan-worshiping Ketcham, who tortured Natives and cursed the land with his blood, and that their daughter has been carrying around a teddy bear that was buried with Jody DeFeo. George’s personality changes dramatically (more than just his hair), and he turns VERY psychotic. The walls don’t bleed and the house doesn’t shake as the Lutz family escapes together after ax-wielding George is knocked unconscious.
The dog gets mistaken for a demon by hallucinating George… let’s just say he’s not in the final shot.
THE WINE: Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier
Chenin Blanc + Viognier 2014 (California)
About $12.00 a bottle.
Though I certainly would entertain the argument, you can’t live off of red meat alone. Sometimes you just need something lighter and spicy. For our Ghost Night meal, Cindy made some delicious, spicy shrimp quesadas with plenty of fresh cilantro, jalapeno, onion and tomato. Personally, I love to add a little sour cream and Siracha. When pairing a wine with lighter, spicy seafood dishes, you want something that will cut through the acidity and bring a slightly sweeter element. A good viognier is great for this, bringing a lot of fruity aromatics like peach and melon, and the spicy cheese will draw out a honey flavor that is just dynamite as it mellows the acid from the peppers.
This is a great bottle of wine on a hot day or enjoying a summer evening on the patio.